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10 Cities and Towns That Tried to Host the U.N.

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Back in the mid-1940s, over 200 American municipalities tried persuading the newly-formed United Nations to set up shop on or near their soil, including these 10.

1. Detroit

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The Motor City’s backers painted Bell Isle as an ideal destination, pointing out that, because the landmass rests between two countries with a long history of mutual respect, its symbolic value was huge. During their bid, local officeholders couldn’t resist the urge to start bragging: “Other American cities may have one advantage, but Detroit has them all,” Convention & Tourist Bureau president Frank A. Pickard said.

2. Claremore, Oklahoma

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Apparently, so far as distinctions go, being both Will Rogers’s hometown and the setting of that Rogers & Hammerstein musical weren’t enough for this Great Plains community. Once, when a U.N. plane touched down in Tulsa to refuel at 2:30 a.m., Claremont residents startled its passengers by greeting them with promotional fliers, even after their bid had been denied.

3. San Francisco


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It may be easy to leave your heart in San Francisco, but in 1945, flying there from the east coast was a tiring ordeal—the trip usually took upwards of 16 hours, and that was on top of the journey from Europe—so the city was dropped from serious consideration, despite Mayor Roger Lapham’s best lobbying efforts.  

4. Boston

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Bean Town residents have been calling their city "the hub of the universe" since the 1860s. So, naturally, when word got out that U.N. diplomats were seeking a permanent home for their new "World Capital," Boston threw its hat in the ring. During the winter of ’46, visiting representatives got red-carpet treatment, complete with a scenic blimp ride.

5. Scituate, Rhode Island

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New England looked like prime real estate—after all, no U.S. region sits closer to Europe, and on January 23, 1946, U.N. delegates arrived to inspect this pretty Rhode Island town. The weather was perfect: one newspaper reported that it was "as if the landscape had put on costume jewelry for its distinguished guests." But Scituate offered more than scenery. What made it really attractive was a nearby radio listening station which had helped allied forces monitor Nazi activities throughout WWII. According to superintendent Thomas Cave, Scituate was "the best location in the country for radio transmission and reception to any part of the world."

6. St. Louis

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In 1945, civic leaders recommended the St. Louis suburb of Weldon Spring.

7. Hyde Park, New York

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This little town had a big advocate. Five months after her husband died in office, Eleanor Roosevelt asked his successor to consider nudging the U.N. toward FDR’s place of birth. After all, as she reminded President Harry Truman, the government already owned land on-site. "[There] is great interest in the village in having some of the property … selected as the permanent headquarters of the United Nations," Roosevelt wrote. Truman replied a few days later, politely noting that while he was grateful for her letter, he didn’t know how the placement decision would be made.  

8. Chicago

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According to Capital of the World: The Race to Host the United Nations, Chicago's dark history of terrible fires, vicious gangsters, and strikes posed a challenge to its bid, as did its isolationist leanings. Eventually, this prevailing attitude became a deal-breaker and, just like that, Chicago's odds of winning the U.N. sweepstakes evaporated.

9. Grand Island, New York

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Nestled just a few miles upstream of Niagara Falls, this upstate island and town could have become the world’s political epicenter. Instead, it reached the "final four" of the U.N. host site selection process but advanced no further.

10. Philadelphia

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If it weren’t for some guy named Rockefeller, the U.N. headquarters would be as quintessentially Philadelphian as cheese steak. Badly wanting to stick this feather in its cap, the City of Brotherly Love fought hard and almost won. Unlike her great rival New York, in which space proved rather tight, Philly was willing to part with essentially any chunk of land for the U.N., and, as an added bonus, even offered to cover all building expenses.

Impressed, the powers that be decided Philadelphia would be a perfect locale. Then, four days before the U.N. planned to announce its impending move there, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. and planning czar Robert Moses came up with some land on Manhattan and a promised gift of $8.5 million. In a flash, the deal was done. 

The Philadelphia Inquirer took this brush-off hard. "The atmosphere of Manhattan’s gin and jazz would probably be to the liking of international lobbyists, parasites, and camp followers," one writer scoffed, "but it is far from the quiet and dignity in which the United Nations should properly work."

BONUS: South Dakota's Black Hills Region

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To Rapid City businessman Paul Bellamy, there was no place on earth that could better serve the U.N. than this remote region. "[The] delegates would think clearer out in the Black Hills," he argued. Geographic isolation would come with other advantages, too. For example, in Bellamy’s mind, a nuclear holocaust wasn’t likely to affect South Dakota all that much: “In the Black Hills, there are no military objectives, and the gentlemen who are striving for peace in the world can live at peace while the atomic bombs are falling.”

Bellamy’s team came up with an outlandish sketch of this future complex. Situated over 100 square miles of tax-free land, there’d be a huge central building surrounded by rings of international offices. Special highways would slice through the neighboring mountains, where diplomats could also set up cozy getaway cottages.

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Big Questions
Why Do So Many Rooms in the White House Have an Oval Shape?
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Why do so many White House rooms have an elliptical "oval" shape?

Taylor Griffin:

The Oval shape of rooms in the White House was chosen to accommodate a formal greeting ceremony known as a "levee." The ceremony has its roots in the royal courts of England and particularly France.

The White House Historical Association explains how it worked in America:

The levee, a tradition borrowed from the English court, was a formal occasion to allow men of prominence to meet the president. Replete with formal dress, silver buckles, and powdered hair, the event was a stiff public ceremony almost military in its starkness. Invited guests entered the room and walked over to the president standing before the fireplace and bowed as a presidential aide made a low announcement of their names. The visitor then stepped back to his place. After 15 minutes the doors were closed and the group would have assembled in a circle. The president would then walk around the circle, addressing each man by his name from memory with some pleasantry or studied remark of congratulation, which might have a political connotation. He bowed, but never shook hands. When he had rounded the circle, the president returned to his place before the mantel and stood until, at a signal from an aide, the guests went to him, one by one, bowed without saying anything, and left the room.

George Washington ordered the bowed walls that characterize the three oval-shaped rooms on the South side of the White House residence: the Diplomatic Reception Room, the Blue Oval room on the State Floor and the Yellow Oval Room on the third floor, expressly for the levee.

But the ceremony was only briefly used. The practice was not loved by John Adams, the White House’s first resident. While Adams accepted the reasoning behind the levee, an efficient way to grant wider access to the president in a manner consistent with his station, he didn't disguise his personal distaste for it. In a letter to his wife Abigail, Adams said simply:

"I hate levees …"

The levee was promptly abolished by Thomas Jefferson, who saw the ritualized grandeur of the ceremony as uncomfortably close to the trappings of monarchy from which the young nation had just fought a revolution to divorce itself. The oval shape nevertheless was reprised in the design of the iconic President’s office when the West Wing was built in 1909. The shape of the Oval Office serves no formal purpose except as a homage to the oval rooms of the White House residence, reinforcing the sense of awe for the power wielded within it.

This post originally appeared on Roughly Explained and Quora. Click here to view.

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History
That Time The U.S. Confirmed You Can Only Kill A Yeti In Self-Defense
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In the 1950s, yeti hunting was all the rage among explorers. In 1951, mountaineer Eric Shipton’s expedition to Mt. Everest brought back photos of a mysterious three-toed footprint; in 1954, the Daily Mail sent scientists and mountaineers on a 6-month “Snowman Expedition” to the Himalayas specifically to find the mysterious creature. None of their research was conclusive, but that didn't stop adventure-seekers from trying to find evidence of the yeti's existence.

The U.S. government took the time in 1959 to remind these zealots that if they found a yeti, they couldn't shoot it. Unless it was trying to kill them, of course.

In a state department memo dated December 10, 1959, government officials laid out the regulations that governed yeti hunting in Nepal.

First of all, it was not going to be free. Would-be trackers were ordered to get a permit from the Nepali government, paying 5000 rupees (adjusting for inflation, about $1100 today) for the privilege.

Furthermore, the Nepali government was entitled to any evidence the hunters found. Any photos taken or reports proving the animal’s existence had to be surrendered to the government, and if there was going to be a report “throwing light on the actual existence of the creature,” it couldn’t be given to the press until the government approved it. If the creature was captured, obviously, it would also have to be turned over to the state. Dead or alive.

A State Department memo from 1959 lists regulations for hunting Yeti.
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And last, and most importantly, that “dead or alive” clause wasn’t permission to go around shooting mythical creatures. Yetis could only be killed or shot in self-defense. Finding the yeti was a scientific pursuit, not a trophy sport.

Why did the U.S. government care? According to the National Archives—which currently has the yeti memo on display—it was a diplomatic move. The Nepali government had issued the memo two years earlier, but when the U.S. translated it into English, it was signaling its support of Nepal’s sovereign rule. In doing so, the U.S. hoped Nepal—which neighbors China—would be friendly to Americans' desire to keep tabs on China's communist government.

“Although, at first glance, a memo about yeti-hunting seems fanciful, it is in fact representative of American Cold War strategies to combat what they saw as the rising threat of communism,” historian Sanjana Barr writes on the National Archives’ blog.

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